The Emergence of Domestic Non-Kin Adoption in Kenya: Evidence of Developmental Social Coping in the Midst of a National OVC Crisis Open Access

Findley, Kaitlyn R (2011)

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The Emergence of Domestic Non-Kin Adoption in Kenya: Evidence of Developmental Social
Coping in the Midst of a National OVC Crisis
By Kaitlyn Findley
Traditionally, legal adoption by non-relatives in Kenya, and sub-Saharan Africa in general, has
been highly stigmatized and rarely practiced due to strong cultural barriers involving ethnic
identity, clan affiliation and negative connotations associated with "baby stealing." Despite its
long history as a highly stigmatized institution, Kenya has experienced a dramatic increase in
local adoption over the last 15 years, unlike any other country in SSA. The objective of this
research project was to anthropologically assess the emergence of domestic, non-kin adoption in
Kenya as a social coping mechanism for the growth of infant abandonment, a culturally novel
phenomenon situated within the larger orphan and vulnerable children (OVC) crisis that resulted
from the country's deteriorating socio-economic conditions and devastating demographic shift
caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The goals were as follows: to record the legal and social
emergence of domestic, non-kin adoption in Kenya; to explore the body of ideas, opinions and
stigmas surrounding both domestic and international adoption; to document the motivations and
experiences of adoptive parents in Kenya; to identify the unique characteristics of the children
being adopted domestically; and to establish an understanding of adoption in the Kenyan context
with the aim of assessing and understanding its potential impact on long-term care for abandoned
infants. To accomplish these objectives, I conducted 34 semi-structured interviews with adoptive
parents, members of the general public, and experts in the field of local adoption. I also collected
quantitative data on a sample of abandoned infants from New Life Home-Kilimani, a children's
home in Kenya, to provide a case study of the children being adopted domestically. Ultimately,
the study found that Kenya has experienced a significant social transformation involving the
relative acceptance of domestic adoption specifically with respect to abandoned infants. The
emergence of local adoption in Kenya can be seen as a developmental social coping response to
infant abandonment-a culturally novel phenomenon requiring a culturally novel solution.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
List of Tables and Figures

Chapter 1: Introduction 1
i.Conceptual Framework
ii.Problem Statement
iii.Central Thesis and Objectives
iv.Research Justification

Chapter 2: Ethnographic Context and Literature Review 12
i.Ethnographic Context
ii.Literature Review
iii.Anthropological Perspectives on Adoption
iv.Formal Adoption: Definitions and Global Trends
v.Anthropological Perspectives on Social Coping

Chapter 3: Research Methods and Field Observations 41
i.Research Design
ii.Study Sites
iii.Quantitative Methods
iv.Qualitative Methods
v.Field Observations

Chapter 4: The Emergence of Domestic, Non-Kin Adoption 55

ii.Trends in Formal Adoption
iii.National Level Explanations for Domestic Adoption in Kenya
iv.Conclusion: Evidence of Social Coping at the National Level

Chapter 5: The Adoptive Parents of Kenya 86
i.Who Adopts?
ii.Field Observations from NLH-Kilimani
iii.Adoptive Parent Informant Interviews: Analysis and Discussion
iv.Conclusion: Evidence of Developmental Social Coping at the Individual Level

Chapter 6: The Children Adopted Domestically in Kenya 119
ii.Kenyan Children Legally Eligible for Adoption
iii.The Children Adopted: Legal Policies and Parental Preferences
iv.Conclusion: How Infant Abandonment Has Enabled the Emergence of Domestic

Chapter 7: Summary and Discussion 155
ii.Academic Survey and Critical Assessment

Chapter 8: Conclusion 168

References 171

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